Those of you who know me are aware that I’ve been “training” for a 10k race, on April 1st in Incheon, South Korea. I put training in cheesy quotations because it’s mostly been me trying not to trip and wipe out on the treadmill. And imagining random, what would usually be drug induced visions to keep me going such as: “I am running on a rainbow!! And when my feet hit the treadmill flashes of colour burst out!!! Now it’s become a giant keyboard like in the movie ‘Big’! I’m not running and sweating in a hotel basement: I’m making music as I dash across a magical Lucky Charms rainbow!!!” No joke. I actually imagined this one day.
So training might not be the appropriate word but whatever it’s been -it’s been quite wonderful. Today I ran 5.4k in 40 minutes and a few weeks ago I passed the 7k mark. So I’m almost there! Now comes the question “Why?” Good question. It’s one I’ve posed to myself repeatedly -like a mantra- while running on a device that doesn’t actually allow me to go anywhere. There are several reasons such as the natural high you get, reclaiming my body after a rough year and doing a shared activity with a friend… however, I really found my purpose when I decided to run for KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association) or more specifically: the wonderful women I have had the privilege to work with these past few months in Seoul. What is KUMFA you ask? Here’s a recent post by an awesome volunteer and activist Shannon:
Korean Unwed Mothers Families’ Association advocates for the rights of unwed pregnant women, unwed mothers and their children in Korea. KUMFA’s goal is to enable Korean women to have sufficient resources and support to keep their babies if they choose, and thrive in Korean society.
KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association, formerly Miss Mama Mia) is an organization that was starting by and for unwed mothers themselves. It started as a Naver cafe (http://cafe.naver.com/missmammamia.cafe) and then expanded to an offline monthly meeting where moms can participate in educational lectures, exchange information, etc. In addition, KUMFA holds camps for each major holiday in Korea, in order to provide family environments for moms and children during holiday seasons. KUMFA also provides educational, advocacy, and counseling support programs for unwed mothers. (For more info about KUMFA, covered by the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/world/asia/08mothers.html)
KUMFA also runs the Hyung Project (형프로젝트) in order to create one-on-one relationships between volunteers and their partner children. Volunteers become mentors to their partner and it also gives the moms time for themselves when their children meet with their big bro/big sis partner.
KUMFA has also worked with TRACK, ASK, and KoRoot (adoptee advocacy groups) to help pass the revisions to the Special Adoption Law in 2011, which will help bring Korea up to standards of the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child. The link between international adoption and unwed mothers in Korea is clear – currently, 90% of the over 1,000 babies that are sent from Korea each year now are those of unwed mothers – a tragic indication of the difficulties that unwed mothers in Korea face. (For more info on the Special Adoption Law, covered by the Korea Herald http://www.koreaherald.com/lifestyle/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20091113000068).
Finally, in the beginning of 2011, KUMFA opened HEATER (희망을 찾는 터 – 희터 for short), a facility that provides care for mothers who keep their children. Each year the facility houses and feeds up to 24 mothers and their children. Two mothers and their children stay at HEATER for two months at a time. It is a unique place in that, unlike other facilities in Korea, HEATER accepts mothers who are older and/or have children. Some of the children need medical attention (For more info on Heater, covered by the Korea Herald http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20111123000239).
How can you support KUMFA or Heater?
To donate to KUMFA (in Korea): 국민은행 547801-04-053780 (Kookmin Bank) 고**
To donate to Heater (in Korea): 국민은행 778801 04 345159 (Kookmin Bank) 목경화 (희망을 찾는 터)
To donate to KUMFA or Heater (international): Paypal firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t know what to add to this besides the fact that I love these women. They face daunting challenges and disheartening discrimination every day -while striving to be the best mothers possible as well as breadwinners and activists in order to ensure a better future not only for their children, but for other unwed mothers. I believe in this cause 110%, if not more, and if it touches you in any way, or you just know me and are shocked/amused at the idea of ME becoming a RUNNER -then please donate to Heater! Even if you just decide to give up one cup of coffee for a morning and give them the money instead. Every bit helps.
Let’s show these women they aren’t alone. Let’s not let ignorance, prejudice or misplaced pious fervor define these individuals and even coerce them into pressured decisions in their hour of vulnerability.
See, we can change the things we know.
Yeah, we can change the things we know.
I’ll remake my works of art
I’ll reward your restless heart
Let’s invent them all again.